The remarkable memoirs of an Alabama farmer gathered viva voce not long before he died at 88 last year. He is an illiterate black man; his significance is that he never got broken -- not by brutality and hard labor as a child, nor by twelve years in jail for working with the Sharecroppers Union in the 1930's, nor by Southern oppression. In the course of this long autobiography, Shaw movingly expresses his love for his wife of forty years and his children as well as his hatred of his father. He retains a tremendous memory for everything having to do with his decades of work -- cotton prices, pigs, wells, lumber, weevils. The inspiring thing about the man is not his occasional interspersion of folk wisdom on class, color, God and life, but his duality as a classic individualistic peasant and a man with a broader sense of identity (Booker Washington, he says, ""never did get to the roots of our troubles. . . . He should have walked out full-faced with all the courage in the world. . . .""). Readers who focus on Shaw's parochialism (he calls his locality his ""country"" and uses such regionally pinpointed terms as ""grandchaps"") will nevertheless be unable to miss that second dimension.